November 16, 2010

Pensacola Marathon Race Recap

Shoot.  It's Tuesday.  I said I'd get you this on Monday.  This is way past my bedtime, but I won't have time tomorrow (today?) so here it is:

Luckily, not many people on the roads.

I was pretty psyched and drove out to Pensacola without any problems.  I even took a picture of me singing my head off on the drive but the picture turned out worse than my singing.  Coordinating self-portraits while driving is probably a bad idea anyway so you'll have to settle for a my picture of the road (easier to aim) and the beautiful blue sky.

The hotel wasn't super sketchy, although I did debate staying at a hotel down the street advertising $35/night.  The cheap place did look super sketchy so I passed.  (I did, however, spend 10 minutes parked in their parking lot debating how much I cared that it looked unsafe.  Not gonna lie.)  Right after I checked in at my hotel I drove over to the packet pick-up covering some of the course in the process.  I was a little bit surprised to see how hilly it was.  Not just little rolling hills but some significant climbs as well.  Hmm.  Nothing to do about it at this point.

The people at the packet pick-up were very helpful and organized. Piece of cake.  The only downside is that the shirts are that "see-through-white."   So see-through that you can hold them up and not only read the print on the front AND back of the shirt, but could talk to someone standing on the other side with a better field of vision than if you were wearing a burka.  Bummer.  I'm not really into the see-through shirts, but at least you can layer.

Race Day
3 gels pinned to my behind.
After sleeping fitfully, I woke up at 3:55.  The race started at 6:30 and I wanted plenty of time for "digestion" (if you know what I mean), getting ready, checking out of the hotel and driving the 20 minutes to the start.  I woke up right on time, downed my coffee & whole wheat bagel with peanut butter immediately and got everything together.  I did what you're always told not to do and toyed with a new way to carry gels:  I pinned 3 on the back of my shorts (I normally carry them in my armband).  I won't create too much suspense... they made it less than a mile before I took 2 of them off (stabbing myself with the pins in the process) because I could tell they were going to piss me off if I didn't.  Bummer.

Sunrise (long after I got to the race start)
Anyway, back to the story... "digestion" didn't work.  I could not go to the bathroom before I left the hotel.  This seems to be a problem for me when I'm A: away from home and B: have early starts for races.  Not sure which is most responsible, but Sunday was no exception.  I showed up at the starting line a little more than an hour early so I figured I'd warm-up, jump up and down to "warm-up" and therefore *get things moving* so I could hit a port-a-potty before the race.  Luckily, getting there so early meant that I got a killer parking space right near the finish and could jump around without making too many people think I was crazy.  After hitting the port-a-potties twice with no luck, I figured, "who cares?"  This ones just for fun anyway.  If (or rather, when) I have to stop for a potty break, I won't mind losing a minute or two.  So I lined up with everyone else and waited for the gun.

The Race
Miles 1-15 were mostly me trying to reign it in.  I was feeling good and my body kept picking up the pace.  I tend to want to keep everyone else's pace, but the marathon is a personal battle you have to fight on your own.  I also knew that there were way more half marathon runners than full so I didn't want to get carried away by their enthusiasm so early on.  I mostly kept my pace where I wanted it and enjoyed the sights.  This time around (the course was a double loop) the hills were mere speed bumps - they slowed me a little but were soon forgotten.  It was also during this portion of the race that 2 exciting things happened:
1.  They had free Gu/Powerbar gels around mile 6 and 13.5.  I grabbed 2 at each stop.  Sweet!
2.  Despite someone stealing using the public port-a-potty at mile 6, I wasn't experiencing an emergency so I patiently waited until mile 8 rather than stand & wait.  I don't know if it works the same for you, but successful "pit stops" are magical and significantly improve my quality of life.  Let's just say that mile 9 was beautiful.

There was also the bonus that from mile 9-13 I was flying by half-marathoners (and a couple marathoners...  Uh oh!) who went out too fast, didn't train well, or were simply having a bad day.  It's not that I enjoy your misery.  It's simply that we've all been there and it's nice to have a day when you're not that person.

Miles 16-20 were uneventful.  My adrenaline energy had worn off at this point, and we'd left the half marathoners behind.  This means that I was now spending a lot more time alone on the course but there were still 10-20 runners within sight in front of me at any given time.  (Yeah... a little lonely.)  I was no longer struggling to slow down, but I wasn't struggling to hold the pace either.  Everything was feeling pretty good.

Mile 19/20 - The clouds disappeared and the sun came out in full force.  Until now, the weather had been warm but cloudy with very little direct sunlight.  Once the sun peeked out, you could look around and immediately tell it was taking a toll on everyone.  It was around this point that my heart rate started to slowly creep up.  I still had gas left in the tank, but I began to debate the impact that pushing the last 6 miles would have on CIM.  Any time we hit hills my heart rate was jumping into the high 170s and I was getting worried about pushing it too hard.  A little disappointed, I decided to simply keep the pace I'd been running all along (rather than running MP for the last 6-8) and that I'd walk the uphills.  CIM is predominantly downhill, so I didn't want to "practice" on hills I won't be running.  I repeatedly had to remind myself this was a long, slow run for me... not a race.  Going full throttle wasn't going to get me anywhere (figuratively speaking, that is).

So I plodded my way to the finish line.  I felt ok, but started feeling that hot weather type of exhaustion where you just don't want to move unless it's toward an ice bath.  It wasn't dangerously hot out, just the mid-70s, but when you've already run over 20 miles the little temperature changes take a bigger toll.  Miles 21-24 were my slowest, primarily due to walking hills but I still kept my pace averaged around 9:28 for those miles.  Once I hit mile 25 I dropped back until 9:00 miles to coast in to the finish and I still came in under 4 hours.

And yes, I even did a goofy run through the finish line.  I became a maniac, afterall.  Figured I had a good excuse to act like one.  (We'll see when the pictures come back how ridiculous I look.)  Some guy yelled that if I had that much energy crossing the line I shoulda raced harder.  I didn't want to tell him I'm saving my energy for December.  Plus, at this point the extra energy I used to sprint the last 0.2 and high-step it across the finish had taken it's toll and I was gasping for air.  Whatevs.  The finisher pictures don't show what you look like on that side of the line.  That's something we can all be grateful for.

I'm a maniac... next up, massage!
Overall?  It was good for a supported long run, but I'm not sure I'd run it again.

The quick & dirty:
Pros:  Small, but very friendly marathon.  The route is made up of 2 loops - some people don't like that, but I don't mind.  You know what's coming and can settle into a groove.  The first few miles of the loop are pretty and along the Gulf.
Hurt so good.  He's really leaning into it!
Cons:  There are very few spectators, particularly on the second loop once all the half marathon runners have finished.  The course was just ok.  There isn't much to say about most of the scenery... a lot of it was industrial or small residential neighborhoods.  I don't know Pensacola at all, so maybe that's all it has to offer.  Once you finished, there was only one guy doing massages and one guy doing dynamic stretching.  The stretching tent started packing up almost immediately after I finished.  (I ran to my car to dump my gels and switch to flip-flops and by the time I arrived at the tent - maybe 4 hrs and 10 minutes after the start - they'd already stopped taking names for the list.  Really!?!  The bulk of the marathon runners are just crossing or haven't crossed yet.  I'm gonna go out on a limb and say they need your help the most, but whatever.  Not much you can do.)  The massage guy was great, but it would have been nice to have another person or two to help him out.

Once I get the official pictures, I'll post some of the ridiculous ones for you.  Nothing like running pictures to make you humble.  I hope everyone had a good weekend!


  1. I really REALLY hope I don't have to stop to use the port-a-poty. If I run as fast as you, then, it would be ok.

    "the marathon is a personal battle you have to fight on your own." - LOVE THIS!

  2. Congrats! I can relate to your "digestion"

  3. awesome job on your practice marathon!!! you did great :)

    and just to warn you - there are plenty of "ups" to get the downs at CIM. nothing crazy, but its definitely not flat.

  4. I love your blog! I'm currently starting to train for the Pensacola Half and trying to figure out this whole running thing :) I really hope the massage guy is there this year!